How to Knit With a Wooden Spool & Nails


Pound a few nails halfway into the top of a hollow wooden spool and you'll have the simplest form of a French knitter, sometimes called a spool knitter or a knitting Nancy. You can also purchase a commercial model of the same tool for a few dollars; no matter where you get it from, you use the same technique to knit a long, semi-flexible cord. This cord is basically the same as the I-cord you'd knit with two double-pointed needles. You can use it for trimming garments, as a drawstring, or you can stitch coiled cords together to make faux-rag rugs or hot plates.

Things You'll Need

  • Knitting Nancy or wooden spool with nails pounded halfway into the top
  • Clothespin
  • Small crochet hook
  • Feed the tail end of the yarn down through the middle of the spool, so that 4 to 6 inches show below the spool. Clip a clothespin to this "tail" to add tension to the yarn.

  • Wrap the yarn counterclockwise once around each of the nails protruding from the spool. Start with any nail and work your way counterclockwise around the top of the spool, until you've wrapped the yarn once around every nail. Make your wraps tidy but not taut; if they're too tight, you won't be able to make the first stitches.

  • Wrap the yarn once around the outside of the nails, again working counterclockwise. In other words, make one big loop of yarn that touches the outside of every nail, above the loops you previously made.

  • Slide the crochet hook under the first loop you made on the first nail. Use the hook to slide the loop up and off the nail, allowing it to slip toward the center of the wooden spool. This "discarded loop" will cause tension on the previous "pass" of yarn around the entire spool, creating a new "stitch" on the nail.

  • Work your way around the spool counterclockwise, sliding each bottom-most loop up and over the yarn above it, letting the original loop fall toward the center of the spool while the previous "pass" of yarn becomes a new loop on the nail. Continue until you're down to just one loop on each nail again. Give the tail hanging from the center of the spool a gentle tug to seat the new stitches on the nails.

  • Wrap the yarn once around the outside of the nails again, and use the crochet hook to pass the bottom-most loops up and off the nails, into the center of the spool. Continue this wrap-and-pull-loop-over process until the cord, which emerges from the bottom of the spool, is as long as you need it to be.

  • Snip the working end of the yarn, leaving a tail of 6 to 8 inches. Use the crochet hook to slide one loop at a time off its nail and then pull the end of the yarn through that loop. Pull the loose end snug once it's threaded through all the loops. You can then use this loose end to secure one end of the cord to something, or weave it into the cord to hide it.

Tips & Warnings

  • Continue tugging on the cord periodically; this both seats the stitches and "stretches" the cord to its actual length.
  • Remember to take the length of the spool into account when you calculate the cord length. If you can see 18 inches of cord showing below the spool and the spool itself is 4 inches long, you actually have 22 inches of cord.
  • Wooden spools are no longer in common use as they once were, but you can purchase them in some craft stores.

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